Perspective

WHO calls emergency meeting over Chinese coronavirus outbreak

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

WHO has called an emergency committee meeting to determine if the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in China should be considered a global public health emergency.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will convene the meeting under the International Health Regulations on Wednesday to determine whether the outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The committee also will discuss what recommendations should be made to manage the outbreak, which has left more than 200 people infected.

According to the China Daily newspaper, health officials in Wuhan, China, confirmed 136 new cases of the virus on Monday after reporting more than 130 new cases over the weekend. Officials have said that the virus is spreading from person-to-person. So far, three patients have died. The outbreak has been linked to an animal market in Wuhan.

There also have been multiple reports of cases outside of Wuhan, including two previously reported cases in Thailand and another in Japan. On Monday, China Daily reported three additional cases in Beijing and South China's Guangdong province.

To help prevent transmission to the United States, the CDC announced that travelers from Wuhan to the U.S. will undergo entry screening for symptoms associated with the coronavirus. The efforts will be concentrated in the three airports that receive the most travelers from Wuhan: SFO in San Francisco, JFK in New York and LAX in Los Angeles. Approximately 100 additional staff members were sent to these airports to assist current staff members at CDC quarantine stations in these airports.

According to the CDC, the last time these precautions were put in place was during the West African Ebola epidemic. – by Caitlyn Stulpin

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

WHO has called an emergency committee meeting to determine if the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in China should be considered a global public health emergency.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will convene the meeting under the International Health Regulations on Wednesday to determine whether the outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The committee also will discuss what recommendations should be made to manage the outbreak, which has left more than 200 people infected.

According to the China Daily newspaper, health officials in Wuhan, China, confirmed 136 new cases of the virus on Monday after reporting more than 130 new cases over the weekend. Officials have said that the virus is spreading from person-to-person. So far, three patients have died. The outbreak has been linked to an animal market in Wuhan.

There also have been multiple reports of cases outside of Wuhan, including two previously reported cases in Thailand and another in Japan. On Monday, China Daily reported three additional cases in Beijing and South China's Guangdong province.

To help prevent transmission to the United States, the CDC announced that travelers from Wuhan to the U.S. will undergo entry screening for symptoms associated with the coronavirus. The efforts will be concentrated in the three airports that receive the most travelers from Wuhan: SFO in San Francisco, JFK in New York and LAX in Los Angeles. Approximately 100 additional staff members were sent to these airports to assist current staff members at CDC quarantine stations in these airports.

According to the CDC, the last time these precautions were put in place was during the West African Ebola epidemic. – by Caitlyn Stulpin

    Perspective

    This epidemic caused by a novel coronavirus (nCoV) was first recognized on Dec. 30 in Wuhan. This virus has now been exported by travelers from Wuhan to Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, as well as by travelers to Thailand, South Korea and Japan. There is person-to-person transmission and, of 198 total patients, at least 14 health care workers in Wuhan have been infected. Like the two other novel coronaviruses, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome, this virus is a third cause of coronavirus pneumonia (CP-3).

    China shared the genetic sequence of this nCoV (CP-3), which was discovered in record time on Jan. 7, by Jan. 12. This rapid discovery and action to share the genome of the virus should become the “new normal” for future epidemics. China could have shared more epidemiologic and clinical data earlier this month; now they are doing so under a national framework.

    On Jan. 22, WHO will convene an Emergency Committee to advise whether to declare this epidemic a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. WHO has already been working with China and the world to focus on global security priorities to stop this outbreak that has become an epidemic, and perhaps a pan-epidemic like SARS coronavirus in 2003, before it becomes a worldwide pandemic. In the long run, we need to develop a universal coronavirus vaccine because there will likely be more novel coronavirus pneumonia (CP-4 and CP-5) in the 2020s. 

    The U.S. CDC has created a webpage with guidance for U.S. health care workers that has been updated as of Jan. 21. It provides the best U.S. resource for information on how to evaluate potential cases, how to avoid becoming infected and how to send specimens for testing to CDC in Atlanta.

    • Daniel R. Lucey, MD, FIDSA
    • IDSA spokesperson
      Adjunct professor of medicine and infectious diseases
      Georgetown University

    Disclosures: Lucey reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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